The Joy of Laughter – life’s too mysterious to be so serious

I have a tendency to be overly earnest. Knowing this, I once bought a cute Mary Englebreit poster for my classroom that said, “Life’s too mysterious to take too serious.” It was just the thing to help me take a lighthearted approach to my job as an English teacher.

Ironically, I had to take the poster down. I couldn’t get over the fact that it was grammatically incorrect. It should have read, “Life’s too mysterious to take too seriously.” To be clear, seriously is an adverb describing the verb take. For the same reason, one of my favorite songs, Take It Easy, should technically be Take It Easily.

I know. What a nerd. I was recently reminded of the need to temper my conscientious nature with some good belly laughs.

I was driving alone from Indiana to Illinois to care for my mom, who wasn’t feeling well. The windshield wipers thumped a gloomy beat that matched the news on the radio. I flipped to a couple of music stations, but no song brought relief from my worry. Like many of you, I’m heavy-hearted by the Coronavirus and its effect on our country and the people I love.

I scrolled through the channels on Sirius XM radio and settled on LaughUSA, a station I had never listened to before. Four hours later, I pulled into my mom’s place with a smile on my face, my sides aching from laughter, and a much lighter mood.

Once I became an adult, I pretty much gave up on comedy. Life demanded responsibility and diligence, and that’s what I gave it. The older I got, the more serious I got, though I secretly longed to laugh myself silly.

Unfortunately, I find most humor these days to be crude and crass. A few years ago I was excited to go to a comedy show at Chicago’s Second City. As the show went on, the dark humor made me feel increasingly nauseous, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. As we walked outside, I let the cold, fresh air of the windy city sting my face and blow away the icky feeling.

I’m a cornball who loves a good, clean joke. When I was young, my little sisters and I stayed up late on Saturday nights to watch The Carol Burnett Show. We still crack up thinking about Tim Conway playing an inept dentist. We would laugh uproariously when our dad, an actual dentist and very goofy guy, entertained us by acting out Conway’s character.

Remember Hee Haw? When my kids were in elementary school, we often watched re-runs of the show after their evening baths. They even learned a few of the comedy sketches and would perform them to my delighted applause.

Lately I’ve been watching some of my favorite feel-good movies. I had all but forgotten the scene from Mary Poppins with Bert and Uncle Albert laughing so hard they float up to the ceiling singing, “I love to laugh, loud and long and clear. The more I laugh, the more I fill with glee. The more the glee, the more I’m a merrier me!”

At such a difficult time in our nation, talk of laughter may sound a little tone-deaf, but I think we all could use a hearty laugh. W.E.B. Du Bois (not well-known for his sense of humor) said, “I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter. It has made the world human and lovable, despite all of its pain and wrong.”

No matter how serious life gets, we can’t forget to laugh, loud and long and clear.

Bert: I knew a man with a wooden leg named Smith.

Uncle Albert: What was the name of his other leg?

Come on, now. That’s funny stuff.


Question of the Week – What makes you laugh out loud? Share your favorite funny movie, book, show, or comedian in the comments. Wishing you a week filled with lots of laughs!

Getting Dressed – a dozen surprising perks of getting ready for the day

Since the pandemic began, I’ve heard a lot of people are having trouble getting dressed. If they aren’t going anywhere, why bother? Believe me, I get it. Like many people my age, I had to learn this lesson for myself.

When I became a retired empty-nester, I found it difficult to get dressed and ready for the day. At first, staying in my pajamas well past noon felt like a just reward. After all, I’d been rushing to get out the door for school or work my entire life.

However, after a couple of weeks lazing through my days without putting on real clothes, I felt like Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company, famous for her muumuus and slippers. Since then, even if I’m not going anywhere, I have a morning routine that includes getting dressed and ready for the day.

For me, that means putting on a casual but cute outfit that can’t be mistaken for pajamas or exercise gear. Though I’ve never been a fashionista, my charming mother and her friends taught me at a young age the wisdom of being properly dressed.

In her best-selling book, Lessons from Madame Chic, Jennifer L. Scott shares secrets she learned from the matriarch of the family with whom she lived while studying in France. Among other lessons in living, Scott noticed both Madame Chic and her husband remained well-dressed from morning to night.

There is a fashionable trend towards messy chic which has only been exaggerated by the quarantine. I recently saw a young mom at the grocery store wearing pajama pants and a sweatshirt boasting, “Messy hair. Don’t care.”

This week, the impeccably dressed Alex Trebec told Jeopardy viewers they could take the test at home – without putting on pants! There is, thankfully, a disclaimer that contestants are required to wear “out-of-the-house-clothing.”

Cheeky, yes, but what have we come to?

Even if the rest of the world welcomes unapologetic sloppiness, I just can’t. When tempted to remain in my pajamas or early morning walking clothes, I hear my favorite Disney muse, Mary Poppins, firmly say, “Best foot forward. Spit spot!”

Thanks to experience, and the good example of others, mature men and women know there are some surprising perks to getting ready for the day. Whether you are retired, work from home, or are a full-time parent or care-giver, taking time to get dressed each morning can help us ~

  1. Have More Energy – Getting ready for the day gets us up and moving. By the time we’re dressed and looking sharp, the blood is pumping, morning kinks are worked out, and we’re ready to move mountains – or at least tackle our to-do list.
  2. Control Our Closet – With time, we learn what styles, colors, and fabrics feel good and function in our real, everyday lives. What a joy it is to have an organized closet filled with clothes we actually wear and love.
  3. Stay Well-Groomed – If we don’t routinely get ready for the day, it’s easy to ignore basic grooming tasks. Remember the make-over scene in Miss Congeniality? If I let things go, I’m afraid it would take more than an entire warehouse full of professionals to make me presentable again.
  4. Age Gracefully – As we get older, it’s especially important to have confidence in the person we see in the mirror. Getting ready for the day helps us look and feel our best so we can embrace our age and continue living our best life.
  5. Mind Our Manners – As a teacher, I was always amazed at how well-behaved my students were when dressed for a field trip or special event. I admit I’m more aware of using my best manners when neatly dressed than when schlepping around in my bathrobe.
  6. Brighten the Day – Taking time to pop on a cheery scarf or dashing jacket can bring a smile to others. People appreciate it when we dress up a little, especially during the current gloom of a pandemic.
  7. Eat Better – There’s something about lounging around in stretchy pants by any name that makes it easy to skip meals and spend the day snacking. A routine of getting dressed helps us enjoy the ritual of sitting down to healthy meals.
  8. Show Respect – Looking our best demonstrates a level of respect for ourselves and others, including the people in our own homes. Like it or not, we tend to be given more respect when we are nicely dressed.
  9. Accomplish More – We all have things we want and need to accomplish, but if we don’t get a good start, the day can slip away. Active folks know wonderfully productive and fulfilling days begin by getting dressed.
  10. Be a Good Role Model – Grumbling (too loudly) about how people dress these days isn’t a good look for anyone. We’ve learned actions speak louder than words. Dressing appropriately encourages others to do the same.
  11. Sleep Better – At the end of the day, changing out of our clothes and getting ready for bed is a pleasant routine that lets our body and mind know it’s time to wind down. A good night’s sleep is crucial for our well-being, particularly when life is feeling less-than-normal.
  12. Carpe Diem – Life is short. Getting dressed helps us make the most of each day, which means making the most of our lives. It’s impossible to seize the day while still wearing our pajamas.

6 Ways Feeding the Birds Feeds Our Soul

My husband taught me the joy of feeding the birds. Initially it was his interest, and I stood back wondering if it was worth the effort. It wasn’t long before I was convinced the time and money we spent caring for our feathered friends was returned many times over by birds who bring us year-round entertainment and a peaceful connection to nature.  

Whether you live in the city or the country, maintain an elaborate system of bird feeders or just sprinkle bread crumbs on your window sill, feeding the birds can feed your soul in some unexpected ways.

1. Kindness – When we do something nice, no matter how simple, it increases the goodness in the world. A single act of kindness can have a long-reaching ripple effect, sending good vibes throughout the planet. Watching the birds gleefully flock to their freshly filled feeders and bird bath, makes us want to keep spreading good cheer.

2. Connection – Over the years, I’ve watched the birds from kitchen windows and backyard porches with family and friends of all ages. Watching the birds creates a sweet and common bond over the wonder of our shared world.

3. Learning –  When we watch the birds, we naturally want to know more about them. Is that a bluebird or an Indigo bunting? Do orioles prefer oranges or meal worms? Did you know a woodpecker’s tongue is so long it wraps around the inside of its head? There is so much to learn! 

4. Beauty – In our flashy bigger-is-better world, we can miss the subtle, natural beauty of things. When we take time to notice a bird’s intricate coloring, delicate shape, and  sweet song, we begin to appreciate the genuine beauty in the world we sometimes take for granted.

5. Simplicity – A few seeds and a little fresh water is all a bird needs. It makes us stop and think about what we really need to live a healthy, happy life. Watching the birds mindfully eat, chirp, nest, and fly can encourage us to strip away the pretenses and live a simple, authentic life.

6. Charity – Remember the bird lady Mary Poppins sang about? “Come feed the little birds. Show them you care and you’ll be glad if you do. The young ones are hungry; their nests are so bare. All it takes is tuppence from you. Feed the birds. Tuppence a bag.” We all benefit when we share our blessings, not just count them. ยง

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